Monday, May 7, 2007

Addicted to Recovery, or, This is What Sleep Deprivation Can Do to a Person

I might complain about it, but living with someone who is constantly bogarting the TV remote is kind of a blessing. No, I usually don’t care to watch all four hundred episodes in the James Bond marathon, thanks for asking, or an entire round of an Ultimate Fighting cage match, so I sit next to Alex and practice scales on the guitar—as loudly as possible. It’s good for me. When it’s my birthday or a night when I’m home alone, though, I get the remote to myself, and if the TV gods are smiling, the show Intervention is on.

I loved Intervention right away for its message that radical transformation can happen, even to people who will at first fight it tooth and nailgun; it’s a bloody war between the forces of good and evil within a single person, and we get to watch without fearing the shrapnel that’s flying from scene one.

One minute of the show we’re shaking out heads at Alyson, a three-time White House intern-turned-crackhead who regularly breaks into her dying father’s room to steal his morphine. “When the safe is open,” she says, “I feel like it’s my birthday. Like I won the lottery.” We break for commercial and let it sink in that there’s a mother out there who is not only going to be a widow soon, but has been moved by her own daughter’s behavior to keep her dying husband’s drugs under lock and combination. Minutes later, after accepting her family’s free ride to a treatment facility in Anaheim, Alyson is running the place and entertains a career as an author. “I can do it,” she laughs as the credits roll. “It’s possible.” And we believe her.

It’s usually at the end of the show, when I’m full of good old-fashioned inspiration, that I beg Alex to stage an intervention on me. “Please,” I beg, “I’m dying to go to rehab.”

If Intervention is as true to life as I’m sure it isn’t, I would put on my headphones, or open a magazine, or make nice chit chat with my interventionist before our flight touched down in a nice, warm place. We’d head over to what the show calls “detox,” which sounds like code for “getting a big snoot full of uninterrupted sleep.” After that, check-in at a facility that looks like a hybrid between a cottage and spa, for what could be weeks or even months of talking about myself to adults who are paid to listen. Yes, maybe I would have to cook or clean there; maybe I would have to sleep in the same room with someone who may decide one night to melt down my jewelry, suck it into a syringe, and inject it directly into her heart, but I’ll hand her my wedding ring myself if she promises to be as quiet as a little mouse while she does it. I may have to deal with cigarette smoke at rehab, but I’m pretty sure that no one will wake me at least three times every night, begging for another cup of milk, an hour of hair-stroking, and twelve more rounds of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.”

“There’s one small problem,” Alex always says. “You don’t really even drink.” He can be such a wet blanket.

“Don’t I?” I try and argue. “Maybe you’re just in denial.”

“Fine, then chug this beer.”


He’s right, of course, for ignoring my cries for help. I know exactly what would happen. I would exit recovery, fresh as a daisy, hugging the pillows I had needle pointed with sentiments of a slightly spiritual flavor, believing in myself. And then after a few months of normal, everyday life, where a certain someone is physically incapable of putting his dishes into the sink instead of the dishwasher, and another certain someone likes to let herself outside, step in dog poop, and then come back inside to walk over every single square inch of carpet, I would find myself itching to go right back to the bliss of one full night’s sleep after another and the ability to eat a whole serving of…anything, without having to answer several questions about it before giving more than half of it away to someone who is too cute to refuse.

There’s no recovery from normal life, I guess, unless you count dying. As someone without an addiction to a substance or behavior that’s destroying my life and others’—except for the way I play guitar—no one has ever insisted that I “work a program.” I realize that I should be so grateful for this seemingly small fact that I start speaking in tongues, and so I'll express my undying gratitude to whatever forces kept me from beneath the giant ax of vice by telling you: I know that part of my problem is that I've had it so good. I also know that part of my blessing is that I've lived within a hair of those who have had it no good at all.

Having it good, having it bad...let's forget all that for a minute and get back to the things I can influence. Until I can change the minds of my friends and family, I’m going to work my own clumsy hodge-podge of twelve or so steps from now on, maybe even going so far as to gather my friends together for telling our ugliest truths and our most glorious ones, holding hands, singing songs, and shoring up our own hopes for what’s possible when we live life in delicious, bite-sized chunks. Note to self: Buy a coffee urn and make flyers.

I’m Jody Reale, and I’ve been without an entire night’s sleep for 392 days. Thank whatever higher power is available right now, I know that this, too, shall pass.


Kendallb said...

O.K., so you inspired me to calculate the number of interrupted nights I've experienced (enjoyed, endured?) and I'm at once instantly tired and feeling like I can stand a bit taller as I now have such a big number to add to my is 3,285. Yep, you read right. Ever since my first born brightened our days and he's 9 years old now. Feel free to check my math.

And here's the kicker, I used to be a major sleeper...major. Not because I was depressed or even lazy, as I was often accused; just because I enjoy it.

March 31, 1998 was simply the marker of the onset of sleepless nights. Mind you, my 9 year old is rarely the root of the interruption these days. No, he only comes to my bedside when the Oklahoma storms are a kickin’. The thing is that babies just kept coming into our lives. Swear, I just have 3. Guess it has to do with the way they are spaced that has allowed me to claim the number 3,285.

We did get the ole man fixed, so I see a near end to it, especially since my baby is darn near 3-1/2. I wonder, though, will I ever have uninterrupted sleep? I mean 9 years of it surely constitutes a habit. If it doesn't end, I suppose I will be content in dreaming about sleep.

(Your acquaintance from MomsTown...thanks for another great read!)

JodyReale said...

Wow, 3,285. As a fellow major sleeper--major!--that's Olympic material. Thanks for reading.